YOUNG people do not find religion relevant to their daily lives, but are more open than their parents’ generation to hearing the Christian story, suggests a new book, The Faith of Generation Y.
The book, which is based on a study of more than 300 young people born after 1982, reports that the majority are “benignly indifferent to religion” and “not looking for answers to ultimate questions”, said one of the authors, Sylvia Collins-Mayo, who is a sociologist of religion.
Young people are likely, however, to turn to “a faded, inherited cultural memory of Christianity” during difficult times, such as illness or bereavement, when they are “looking for some sort of guidance” and a way of “making sense of death”.
“What is salutary for the Church is that, generally, young people seemed quite content with this situation, happy to get by on what little they knew about the Christian faith,” Ms Collins-Mayo said.
However, the research showed, she said, that “there was no reason why Generation Y young people wouldn’t be open to listening to the [Christian] story,” since “they don’t have the same hang-up about it as previous generations, who were rebelling simply because they don’t know enough about it.”
The study also found that, while unfamiliar with formal religion, Generation Y is “keenly aware of ethical issues” since it has to “grow up quickly . . . and often face a wide range of difficult choices”.
Young people “drew moral guidance from family as friends, but they also recognised the potential of religion . . . to provide them with guide-lines for living,” Ms Collins-Mayo said.
Of the “infrequent churchgoers” surveyed, who were the majority, 23 per cent said “I believe in a God I can know personally”; 22 per cent said “I believe in some sort of Higher Power or life force but not in a personal God”; 43 per cent “don’t really know what to think”; and 12 per cent “don’t think there is any sort of God, Higher Power or Life Force”.
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, in the final chapter of the book, writes that many Generation Y young people “are open to hearing from the Church and its faith as they seek to shape their identity and navigate through the moral complexities of life. The challenge to the Church is to be confident in the one it is commending, and in the fundamental practices by which it makes him known.”
Church House Publishing, £14.99; 978-0-7151-4206-6
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